The Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has hailed the recent closure of business premises and warehouse of four major rice importing firms over N23.6 billion unpaid rice duty and levies by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu in a chat with SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, said the government should ensure that all those owning the nation pay, no matter how highly placed.
He said the importers must be made to understand that the days of impunity and constant abuse of the Federal Government’s Rice Import Quota Policy are over, noting that they must be ready to play according to the rules if they want to continue doing business in Nigeria.
“Anybody who takes advantage of Government policy should pay for it. These people saw a window of opportunity and Government discovered that they are owing money, so let them pay, so that their warehouses will be reopened.
“We just have to adjust. We won’t say because some people will feel inconvenient because the commodity will be scarce in the market, therefore, we shall allow impunity to continue.
“South Korea never had capacity 40 years ago but deliberate policies helped them. The whole of Niger Delta is enough to produce rice for the whole of Africa. So government must put up policies that will enable us produce what we need.
“We can always make adjustments. If they say frozen poultry products should not come into the country, that is not the only protein we get from foods that are available; let’s adjust our lifestyle also on the issue of rice.
Also speaking, President, National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Eugene Nweke described the move as a right step in the right direction.
He said Customs is now being allowed to carry out its duties and enjoying the support of the President because no supervising minister has yet been appointed for the agency.
He argued that if there had been a minister, Customs would not be able to seal up the warehouses of the defaulting rice importers because according to him, some of the ministers only represent political interests rather than the interest of the nation.
“A lot of things have been done with impunity in this country. To me, it is organized crime. If there had been a minister at the middle, Customs may not do this because the minister will serve as the board chairman of Customs who interfaces between the President of the Republic and Customs on policy matters. But right now there is no minister and Customs can only report to Mr. President who will give the go ahead.
“Most times, the political issues we always have with agencies of Government like Customs, NPA, NIMASA has to do with ministers. Some of the ministers only represent political interests not the interest of the nation. If before now, they wanted to carry out this action, a Minister may have asked them to stop and come up with a political issue,”
He advised the country’s next Finance Minister to ensure that Customs is also given the opportunity to confirm and ensure that any organization granted concession or waiver adheres to the provisions of such concession.
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